He Must Increase and I Must Decrease

by David Brickner | August 01 2019

This article was adapted from a message David gave to an international Jews for Jesus leadership conference in Budapest in May.

Have you ever thought about the transition from John the Baptist’s ministry to that of Jesus? I find John’s attitude such a great role model for any believer at any stage of life and service to God.

Just imagine John at the baptism of Jesus… watching the heavens open up… seeing the Spirit descend and hearing the divine pronouncement: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

Soon after, John pointed to Jesus and announced, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He also proclaimed, “This is the Son of God!” (John 1:34). John had reached the high point of his ministry and calling, his raison d’etre. Where does one go from there?

In a sense, this was the end of John’s ministry life as he had known it – and you can see how disconcerting that was for John’s disciples:

They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified – behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” (John 3:26)

It would have been so easy for John to feel competitive, even jealous. He was a great leader, through whom God had accomplished great things. And yet John responds:

“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:28-30)

And isn’t that what true service to God is all about? We point, not to ourselves, but to Yeshua.

Life is full of changes that require us to adjust our understanding of our calling or some other aspect of our identity. It might be a loss of physical or mental capacity. It might be the loss of a loved one. The transition might be a gain. Maybe it’s a promotion, a marriage, a child, or a grandchild. Whether we’re adjusting to a loss or a gain, what can help us live our lives in ways that show more and more of Jesus?

First, we can remember our primary and most profound identity.

We are spiritually positioned in Messiah. We have been baptized into His death and will be raised with Him. Because we are in Jesus, God can look at us and say, “You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.” That is our primary identity.

Whether things are being added to us or being taken away, no situation or circumstance can alter that identity, and that is why it belongs at our very core. As we rejoice in that identity, we will be strengthened, and it will be a joy for others to be around us.

Second, we can remember God’s purpose.

God promised that the Holy Spirit would reside in your heart, and in mine. He is there for a reason: to transform us moment by moment into the likeness of Jesus.

How we are to remain ourselves in light of this transformation is a mystery. Yet somehow, becoming more like Jesus makes us more like the new-creation selves we all want to be. He must increase. I must decrease.

If we keep our eyes on the Lord – even if our eyes are full of questions – He will lead us according to His good purpose.

Third, remember God’s power.

Many situations require us to choose a path – a path of humility or a path of pride. We can be overwhelmed if we have nothing but the force of our own will to choose the path that honors Christ, but we have been richly resourced with power from on high. God’s strength, His power, is made perfect in our weakness.

D. L. Moody once said, “One may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small.” He must increase, I must decrease. That’s what I want for myself, for our Jews for Jesus staff, and for you. What an appropriate vision for the future for all of us, no matter where we are in the trajectory of our lives!